“Spring Cleaning for the Landscape” – Georgianna Wells, M.L.A. Master of Landscape Architecture, Syracuse University, SUNY ESF

Landscapes, like interiors benefit from renovations and upgrades every few years.  Many plantings look great in the beginning, but over time become overgrown and out of scale.  It helps to periodically remove and replace shrubs and trees that have grown too close together, too close to the house or that are struggling to survive and thrive. This is healthier for the plants and creates opportunities to lively up the landscape with fresh, new plantings.  It’s easy to get attached to plants that are established and familiar.  Some of them have been there for so long that it’s hard to imagine the place without them. The yews along the side of the house, the scraggly bed of pachysandra by the driveway or the old Norway Maple near the fence.  Occasionally there are beautiful specimens worth saving but in most landscapes there are plants that are tired, overgrown or no longer appropriate for the space they were planted in years ago.  It’s ok to let them go and it’s amazing how simply removing these plants can uplift and transform a property. Spring is a great time to take stock of your landscape and look at the bigger picture.  How are the trees and shrubs?  Notice which plants need to be pruned, trimmed, thinned or removed.  Imagine the garden in full bloom and create the space for existing plantings and new plants to grow and thrive.


Thank you Georgianna for your blog entry. We hope you will be meeting with many of our customers this year!

Helmke Industries can help all of our new and old customers prepare for Spring. If you live in Nyack, Piermont, Grandview, Sneden’s Landing, or Palisades, and have questions about any of the following Spring Cleanup services, please don’t hesitate to schedule a no cost consultation at your property.

It’s Cleanup Season

March is notoriously unpredictable. Shrubs can be crusty with snow on the first of the month, and then, a couple of weeks later, temperatures can warm up enough for flower and leaf buds to show signs of life. Still, some early spring cleanup tasks are sure things this time of year. Prune away winter-killed branches to make room for new growth. Cut back spent perennials and pull up old annuals if you didn’t get around to it last fall. Then look around. March is a good time to take stock of your yard and see if it’s time to thin out crowded beds and do some transplanting to fill in bare spots.
Trees and Shrubs

Prune away dead and damaged branches. Where tree or shrub branches have been damaged by cold, snow, and wind, prune back to live stems; Prune summer-flowering shrubs, such as Rose of Sharon, before buds swell, but wait to prune spring bloomers, like forsythia, until after they flower. Trim overgrown evergreens back to a branch whose direction you want to encourage. Now’s the time to get some basic spring yard maintenance done. Then, as temperatures warm up, you’ll be in better shape for seeding and planting, and for enjoying the outdoors.

Perennials and Grasses

Cut back and divide perennials as needed. Prune flowering perennials to a height of 4–5 inches and ornamental grasses to 2–3 inches to allow new growth to shoot up. Where soil has thawed, dig up perennials, such as daylilies and hostas, to thin crowded beds; divide them, leaving at least three stems per clump, and transplant them to fill in sparse areas. Cut back winter-damaged rose canes to 1 inch below the blackened area. On climbers, keep younger green canes and remove older woody ones; neaten them up by bending the canes horizontally and tipping the buds downward.

Beds and Borders

Clean Up Around Plants. Rake out fallen leaves and dead foliage (which can smother plants and foster disease), pull up spent annuals. Once the threat of frost has passed, also remove existing mulch to set the stage for a new layer once spring planting is done. Now is a good time to spread fertilizer tailored to existing plantings on the soil’s surface so that spring rains can carry it to the roots. Add a fertilizer around bulbs as soon as they flower to maximize bloom time and feed next season’s growth. Fix and use drip irrigation lines that have come loose and a square-head shovel to give beds a clean edge and keep turf grass from growing into them.

Lawn Care

Prep Damaged Lawn Areas for Spring Seeding. Grass starts growing in April, but early spring is a good time to test the soil so that you can assemble the right amendments. Remove turf damaged by salt, plows, or disease to prepare for the seeding that should follow in a few weeks. Work in a ½-inch layer of compost to keep the new seed moist, increasing the germination rate. Begin seeding once forsythia starts blooming in your area. March or April is a good time to add the first dose of fertilizer and crabgrass treatment.

Fences and Trellises

Patch or replace and paint worn wood. Remove badly rotted or damaged pickets, boards, or lattice, then scrub wood structures clean. Patch rotted sections with wood epoxy; install new wood as needed. Check wobbly fence posts to see if they need replacing. Once temperatures go above 50° F, brush on a new coat of paint or stain.

If you live in Norwood, Old Tappan, Park Ridge, Montvale, Pearl River, Upper Saddle River, Rockleigh, Alpine or Closter we want to hear from you! We love Northern Bergen County and we have been working in these neighborhoods for five decades. Give us a ring, you will be glad you did. Even a modest investment in your property will increase your enjoyment of it for years to come.